Choose Awe [on KS Friday]

Of course, it’s not enough to appreciate the cloud-stripes that stopped our motion on the trail. I might have painted them in one of my pieces – for no other reason other than they are a cool pattern. Of course, I would have believed I was making it up. Imagination at its finest. But, in mid-trail, to peer up and see them painted on the sky-canvas sent us into a Google frenzy. You’ll be relieved to know that striped patterns in cloud formations are due to an oscillation called the Kelvin-Hemholtz instability. Phew! Not aliens or Van Gogh run amok, just ordinary old Kelvin-Hemholtz, unstable and oscillating. Again.

Nature continues to astound me. Nature continues to blow my imagination to new heights. As an artist, I am relieved knowing that I will never create anything as perfect or profound as what nature tosses up every minute of every day. There’s nothing left to do but play in these fields and appreciate the conversation. Since I am also a unique-form-thrown-up-by-nature, respecting the conversation, having deep gratitude for the moment, wouldn’t hurt.

Standing on the trail, watching the miraculous lines scratched into the blue-blue sky, I re-realized something important: Google might be able to explain it – which is no small feat – but explaining it, labeling it, putting it into a context-box also diminishes it. It gives us the illusion that we are separate from it; that we can control-it-by-rationalization. Visitors at the zoo.

Sometimes I think awe is a better path than explanation. I imagine that we might approach global warming, weather weirding differently, if we weren’t under the illusion that we could Google nature into submission. Awe is participatory, boundaries dissolve. I-am-that. Life beyond definition, beyond category and sub-category, glimmers.

Next time, I will opt for a few more moments of astonishment before reaching for my phone. Explanations and easy answers can wait their turn in line.

Lost. In the Questions ~ Kerri Sherwood

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about STRIPES

lost. in the questions © kerri sherwood

Consider The Revelation Necessary [on KS Friday]

An exercise that is designed for generic failure is also designed for specific success. And, so it is with the bridge. The instruction is simple: get everyone safely across the space. If anyone touches the floor, all must go back. Invariably, the first attempt is an abject failure. The group ignores the word “everyone” and, instead, opts to try and get themselves safely across the space. They believe the game is about them, that “winning” is a singular affair.

After being sent back to the beginning more than once, they come to a spectacular yet inevitable innovation: if they work together, crossing the space will be easy. It is only a matter of moments after their revelation that they, together, construct a secure bridge and are all safely standing on the other side of the room. Specific success wrought from generic failure. And, once they have their realization, they cling to it. They own it. They must, the stakes are raised, the rules are tipped against them during the ensuing phases of the exercise.

I’ve led this exercise hundreds of times. Every single time the group has the necessary revelation. They are not in the game alone. They can only “win” if they join together. If they build it together, everyone will safely cross the space. It gives me hope.

Last night, during the town hall, President Biden said something that ought to slap us from our divisive stupor. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin believe the 21st century belongs to the autocrats. The pace of change is moving too fast and democracies, in their divisiveness, move too slow. So far, we are proving them right.

Once, as an experiment, rather than set the challenge of the bridge, I forced the answer. The group did as I said but collapsed in the ensuing rounds. When I raised the stakes, the people gave up. The harder it got, the less they tried. They coalesced in apathy. They never made it across the bridge again, even though they knew how to build it.

This is what the autocrats do not understand. There is no ownership, no game, in a forced answer [educators could pay attention to this simple rule, too].

We are being divided through titanic campaigns of misinformation. And so, no one will make it safely across this time-space. Generic failure. Wade Davis wrote that we now live in a failed state and, so far, we are proving him right. But I have hope. The necessary revelation, the specific success, bubbles in the frustration. Those stoking the division, feeding fear, will have their day but, in the long run, the lie collapses, people join together and, like a prayer flag, build a bridge to ensure that all make it safely across. They recognize that they are not in this game alone. Winning is hollow if half the team is lost in the process.

This game, the bridge. The necessary revelation is in our nature; nature’s prayer flag. It gives me hope.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about NATURE’S PRAYER FLAG

hope/this season ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Learn To Question

My best place for asking questions

My best place for asking questions

20 (aka John) tells me that his coworker, Amy, aged 22, will have answered all of life’s questions within the next three years. He assures me that she will share her answers when she has them. “We just need to hang on for another three years,” he quips, “…and it’ll all make sense!”

The admitting nurse at the surgery center feels like a threshold guardian. She said, “People who pass through here learn just how little they actually control in life. Surgery is humbling. I’m here when their illusion of control bursts. That moment is hard.” She was quiet for a moment and added, “What gets me is all these people in the world who think they have all the answers – and they think their answer has to be the answer for everybody. All these rules made up by all these people who think they have the right answer for everybody! That’s why people are killing people everywhere.”

“It sounds like more people ought to have surgery!” I tease.

“You got that right,” she said, handing me my gown, hairnet and blue booties. “Put one of these on and you realize how little control you actually have; in this place none of your answers matter and none of your rules apply!”

It should be a mantra for educators and the only argument necessary to dismantle a test-driven system: Life is always found in the direction of the question. At best, answers are relative – and the best answers, if understood, are simply doors to more questions. Learn to question.

The best art follows the same mantra. It steps into big questions, wanders into unknowns and complexities. It tests and tries, explores and experiments. It leads us to explode our answers and like a good trickster does not allow us to hold our gods too tightly. It begs us to question.

“Shall we tell Amy that there are no answers?” I ask 20.

“Nah. Why spoil the surprise.”

From the archives. This one often calls to me

From the archives. This one often calls to me